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Your All-Seasons A–Z Insider’s Guide to Epic Seattle-Area Family Fun

The coolest family day trips, local attractions and more

Author Elisa Murray

Published on: August 20, 2020

Your All-Seasons A–Z Insider’s Guide to Epic Seattle-Area Family Fun

mother holding her kid in front of aquarium glass
Credit: Aysenur-BRvecasl, Unsplash

The Fall Play List Rainy-Day Recess: Where to go when you can’t get outside

Find Your Village: In any season, hanging with young kids can be isolating. Find yourself a meet-up group, whether it meets in person or virtually: In addition to PEPS, which is focused on connecting new parents, check out resources such as Families of Color Seattle or MOPS International, or form your own group with the help of your community Facebook group or a listserv.

The Seattle metropolitan area experiences an average of 152 rainy days a year. Drizzle, of course, doesn’t stop us (right?), but there are those days when it’s just too wet or windy to get outside. Here’s a field guide to the great indoors with kids. 

Aquariums: Explore tidal life and ogle octopuses at the Seattle Aquarium; or spy on sharks in the underwater tunnel of Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s 35,000-square-foot Pacific Seas Aquarium exhibit. Poulsbo’s SEA Discovery Center and the MaST Center aquarium in Des Moines are free aquariums with plenty to see. 

Bounce, wiggle and jump: Check out epic jumping spots, such as the 53,000-square-foot Defy Seattle in Tukwila or Arena Sports’ gigantic facility in Mill Creek. For the younger set, providers such as The Little Gym have adapted programming to continue to provide opportunities for littles to get their wiggles out. The pandemic has required most play spaces to remain closed during much of 2020, but keep your eye on our list of dozens of rainy-day recess options as programs around the sound reopen safely in the coming months. 

Community centers: More than 20 Seattle community centers offer free drop-in play sessions designed for kids ages 5 and younger, complete with balls, trikes, scooters, push bikes and other entertainment. Many other regional community centers offer indoor play of all kinds for kids of all ages. 

Drop-in child care: Drop and shop (or work) at centers such as The Inc. in Seattle, Woodinville’s The Nest or Adventure Kids Playcare in Bellevue and Issaquah. Athletic clubs can also be a great source of reasonably priced child care for an hour or two. Explore available options here.

Get crafty at home: The COVID-19 pandemic motivated many local businesses to offer DIY take-home kits of their projects. Creative and crafty kids and their adults can paint pottery at home, finger-knit a chunky blanket, plant a succulent terrarium, design glass art, learn to cook and so much more.

Get your game on: Unplug with board games at spots like Blue Highway Games on Queen Anne and Meeples Games in West Seattle. Other hot spots include Uncle’s Games, with locations in Bellevue and Redmond; and Mox Boarding House in Ballard and Bellevue. You can also borrow a game from most game stores’ lending libraries to try it out before buying.

Indoor skate parks: Fremont’s All Together Skatepark and Bellevue Indoor Skate Park help kids learn how to shred all year long.
Kaleidoscope Play & Learn: During these free play sessions at multiple locations around Puget Sound, kids can take part in early-learning-focused play activities while you meet new friends and hear about support programs in your neighborhood. Search for area-specific sessions and other resources here.

All You Need Is a Library Card! We all know library systems offer a ton of online media for families (and grown-ups), but take some time to really dig in. Fair warning: You may not emerge for a few days! Through services such as Hoopla, Kanopy and OverDrive, families can access literally hundreds of movies, TV shows, documentaries, newsreels, e-books, audiobooks, magazines, comics and much more.

Keep calm and tinker on: Many local creative reuse centers — such as Seattle ReCreative and Tacoma’s Tinkertopia — offer drop-in sessions and materials that are perfect for preschoolers and older kids. Learn science, technology, engineering, arts and math skills through online and in-person events at King County Library System’s brilliant IdeaX Makerspace. Set up your own makerspace at home with these great tips.

Libraries: Story times, audiobooks, classes, homework help, science kits, digital downloads, personal recommendations — these are only some of the scads of amazing services available to families at Puget Sound–area library systems, both in person and online. Check out (ha!) our A-to-Z list of awesome free stuff and services available for families at our public libraries.

Malls: Malls are one-stop shops for family fun, from free play areas (in almost every mall) to international food (Crossroads, Westfield Southcenter) to covered playgrounds (University Village). Bonus: These malls typically have excellent family bathrooms and nursing/pumping lounges. 

Museums: Kids’ museums are no-brainer rainy-day havens for high-energy, interactive play, but museums of the history, art and science varieties also boast cool kid attractions. Area museums pivoted quickly and creatively to adapt their programming for virtual exploration. Consult our list of fantastic area children’s museums and our roundup of entertaining and educational virtual programming to enjoy from the safety and comfort of home.

girl wearing safety goggles hammering a nail

Nailed It! Home Depot’s free kids workshops are the best bargain in town. The store provides all the materials and tools; kids take home a completed project, such as a picture frame or a bird feeder. 

Nature centers: Beautifully designed environmental centers, such as those at Bellevue’s Lewis Creek Park, the Cedar River Watershed and Mercer Slough as well as the Tacoma Nature Center, are often empty midweek and have space for kids to play and learn (both indoors and out). (Be sure to check for reopening status and hours of operation before heading out.)
Pet stores: Never underestimate the allure of an hour spent at Petco watching the fish, ferrets and dwarf hamsters. Just be prepared to say no to expanding your critter collection! From cat cafés to farm classes to fostering, we’ve got 10 great ideas for encouraging your child’s connection to and love for animals — without resorting to getting an actual pet.

Playful cafés: Finding a café or low-key restaurant with solid espresso options, good snacks and a train table or play area is the holy grail for parents. Read a huge list of reader-ratified caffeine stops that include fringe benefits for kids.

Every Body’s Circus for Kids: ParentMap readers know that big-top fun is close at hand at SANCA – School of Acrobatics & New Circus Arts, located in South Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. At SANCA, kids of all ages (including adults) learn that seemingly impossible tasks are possible with practice.

Tumble time: High-flying indoor playtime at spots such as Seattle Gymnastics Academy guarantees an epic nap later that day. Older kids may want to try parkour at classes offered by the likes of Parkour Visions, MoveFree Academy, Kong Academy and other organizations. 

Unusual story times: Tugboat story time, multilingual story time, story time with theater, story time with chocolate, story time with nature exploration and virtual story times galore: You can find all that and more around Seattle.
Zoos: Climb, jump and learn at Woodland Park Zoo’s Zoomazium; wander and wonder at Point Defiance Zoo’s Pacific Seas Aquarium. And don’t forget the gloriously warm Tropical Butterfly House at Pacific Science Center

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